The 'Public Life' of Photographs

May 9 to 11, 2013

The Ryerson Image Centre’s symposium entitled “The ‘Public Life’ of Photographs” will analyze the dissemination of photographic images from the nineteenth century to the present. The reproducibility of a photograph largely determines how it is used, shared, and made accessible. While the advent of the Internet has increased the number of channels through which images can be accessed and shared, the circulation of photographs has been made possible by a variety of networks and media: the characteristic ubiquity and mobility of the photographic medium have always been necessary for illustration and the spread of visual information; exhibitions and publications have determined the artistic and cultural recognition of the medium; and artists have found a source of inspiration through the re-use and the re-appropriation of past photographs. The dissemination of photographs is a topic that invites scholarship from diverse disciplines. Photography can perform a wide range of functions: it can be a vehicle of information, an instrument of ideology, a means of scientific exploration, and an artistic medium. The flexible nature of photography and its use within many different contexts demand a wide scholarly approach; this conference will bring together experts in the history of photography, art history, philosophy, and visual culture.

The symposium will be divided into five panel discussions: “The Market of Photography” will demonstrate how, since the nineteenth century, economic exchanges have played a key role in the mobility of the photographic image; “The Dissemination of Press Photography” will investigate how the press has participated in disseminating information and opinions through the use of photography; “The Dissemination of Photography and Public Narratives” will analyze photography’s role in the cultural construction of memory and ideology; “Exhibitions of Photography” will examine how photographic exhibitions, whether in museums or less traditional venues have played a major role in the circulation of photographic images; “The Artistic Dissemination of Photography” will focus on how the dissemination of photographs has helped artists gain recognition.

The symposium will bring together 15 internationally renowned scholars and curators, from Canada, the United States, France, Germany, England, and New Zealand, during a three-day symposium (May 9 to 11, 2013) at the Ryerson Image Centre, Ryerson University. “The ‘Public Life’ of Photographs” will attract a broad audience made up of students, scholars, faculty, artists, curators, collectors, practitioners, the arts community, and the general public.

For more information including a list of confirmed speakers and programming see the symposium website: